“Although yoga has its origins in ancient India, its methods and purposes are universal, relying not on cultural background, faith or deity, but simply on the individual. Yoga has become important in the lives of many contemporary Westerners, sometimes as a way of improving health and fitness of the body, but also as a means of personal and spiritual development.” ~ Tara Fraser
Our world is always changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes not so much. One of the ways in which Western society is shifting for the better is in the spiritual and emotional habits now being embraced by men. It is only in recent years that emotional engagement and self-care as a man has started to become more normal and encouraged. This new acceptance of male self-care is manifesting itself in a number of ways; through mindfulness practices, grooming habits, open communication and emotional transparency.
Another one of these self-caring practices is yoga. Yoga still suffers from a bit of a mistaken identity. There is still a misconception that yoga is a light form of fitness training that is more suitable for women than for men. This is the perception for a number of reasons. Men are still fed the idea that strength = fitness and success in men, which goes against yoga’s reputation for building flexibility. This is a shame, as this means that so many men are missing out on the many health benefits, both physical and mental, that can be obtained through practicing yoga.
1. Stress Relief
Yoga combines the mind and body to form a kind of physical, moving meditation. The controlled breathing, relaxation techniques and mind quietening exercises associated with the practice have been proven to modulate resting heart rate and blood pressure, thus relaxing your stress response. It is also an excellent tool when battling against anxiety and depression.
2. Improves Stamina and Promotes Even Muscle Growth
We are not saying that you should drop the weights for good and switch to yoga, more that incorporating yoga as part of your exercise regimen will actually improve your fitness and overall ability to build muscle. Men tend to work on single muscle groups at a time. Yoga pays attention to all muscle groups, ensuring that you build muscle in a balanced way. This will improve how you feel as well as how you look! Yoga is also excellent for building core and cardiovascular strength, which will lead to more satisfying workouts from other physical disciplines.
3. Alleviates Effects of Stressful Activity
The other physical disciplines in question can put a lot of strain on the body. Men who lift weights are, in general, lazy when it comes to stretching. This leads to a lot of tension in the body and raises the potential for injury significantly. Yoga will relax these tensions and help to condition your muscles. This will lead to less injury and will mean that you are less likely to have to skip workouts due to muscle pain.
4. Improves Posture
Keeping a strong posture is important, especially as we start to age. Yoga’s long twists and stretches ensure an improved posture which will help avoid back pain and problems as you grow older and will boost your overall confidence.
5. An Opportunity for Mindfulness
Yoga, being a form of mediation, is the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness; it requires focus and presence. In fact, if you feel that you don’t have much time for mindfulness, then this is a wonderful way to combine it with exercise. Also, some people find that ‘day-to-day’, or ‘casual’ mindfulness is tricky to remember to do. A focused yoga session will offer no such distractions as can be found in your everyday life.
6. Yoga Will Make You Better at Pretty Much Everything!
The benefits of yoga find their way into every aspect of life. If you love your sport, it will make you stronger and more flexible. If you are getting a bit older, it strengthens joints and eases muscle pain. Yoga improves your focus, proprioception and meditation. It helps you to move through the world as a freer, happier and more confident person.
By Chris Thomson
Want some ideas on how to squeeze a bit of yoga into your day? Try some of these: 7 Yoga Poses for Anytime, Anywhere
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